Take Control of Your Email... and Your Job: Page 2

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  • If You Receive an Email, Respond -- This isn't a tough concept, but it's overlooked all the time. How many times have you emailed someone with an important question but never received a response... of any kind?
    ''I have a rule that if you get an email, at least respond within so many hours,'' says Linenberger. ''In some places, it's 12 hours, maybe 24 hours. At least whip off a note saying, 'I'm busy but will get back to you in this timeframe'.''

  • Turn Off the 'Ding' -- Don't let yourself be constantly interrupted by incoming email. Linenberger says he turns off the 'ding' sound that alerts him of incoming mail. That way he can get through what he's doing without the constant interruption.
    ''Research has shown that if you allow yourself to be constantly interrupted, your productivity goes way down,'' he notes. ''I check email periodically because I need to focus my attention on work so I can get read stuff done.''

  • If You're Saving it, File it -- You shouldn't have much email at all sitting in your inbox, says Linenberger. If you need it for something, file it away. If you don't need it, delete it.

  • Use One Folder -- Linenberger says he used to use multiple folders for his email but it became too time-consuming and difficult to search for emails. Now he uses one folder, making searches quicker and easier, and simply categorizes the email in it.
    ''I say make your filing system out of category names and not folders,'' he adds. ''Drag everything into this one folder. It's 100 times better than different folders. Say you're looking for an invoice that came in. Now did I file that or did I leave that in my inbox? Which file folder did I leave that in? Is it in the accounting folder or the employee folder or that other folder? It's hard to find stuff if you use that system. It's very slow.
    ''I rely a lot on the chronological order of my inbox,'' he says. ''I got an email from Ted about that White Sox game we're going to, but when did he send it? It was right around the time when I was working on that quarterly report and that was three days ago. Then you can scroll down and find it. If you break stuff up into individual folders, you can't do that.
    ''And I often like to see all the email from an individual person,'' he also says. ''I want to see everything from Jimmy. If it's all in one folder, you can see it all. If you dragged all those messages into individual folders, you can't do that anymore. Categories are so much easier and you can assign more than one category to one email. So one email can have 10 different categories. Instead of trying to figure out which folder to put it into, you can give it multiple categories.''

  • Archive it All -- Linenberger confesses that he never throws email away, unless he didn't need it in the first place. He uses Outlook Auto Archive, dates it all and tucks it away. He says storage is relatively cheap so he would rather store it and be able to call it up if he happens to need it years from now.

    By better managing email, different aspects of the work day just become that much easier, he says.

    ''I [used to] approach my inbox and see this long list of things and my stomach would tighten up,'' he says. ''I knew there were things in there that had scrolled off the bottom that I needed to attend to. These could have been really important things and there's an uncertainty about what you've let go. It's destructive to your work and to your enjoyment of your work. I barely have time to look at the new stuff, forget going back to look at the old stuff. When you get control of it, there's this phenomenal sense of relief and control. You can actually control your work day.''

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